Words by Theo Sakyi
Ibrahima Traore started off 2015 with a bang by performing excellently at the Africa Cup of Nations, dragging along with him a Guinea side that Cameroon would haveve expected to finish ahead of in the group stages. The 27-year-old provided some of the most exhilarating moments of the tournaments, with his penchant for invention shining through.
His deep, left-footed cross caused problems in Guinea’s first fixture against the Ivory Coast, resulting in the opening goal of the game. He almost bagged a goal himself after cutting in from the right-hand side and hitting the bar.
Against Cameroon raced into the box after spotting the available space from deep and almost finished off through-balls of the tournament, but his best was yet to come. With Guinea being a goal down he displayed his knack for improvisation, quickly turning to face the goal and letting off a shot Fabrice Ondoa couldn’t have seen coming as it settled in the bottom right hand corner of the net.
As is the case with other stand-out players for less fancied teams at the tournament, Traore appeared to relish the increased responsibility placed upon him to deliver that simply isn’t expected of him (or needed from him) at club level.
At club level Traore isn’t the man in the limelight that he is at international level, as the attacking play would mostly go through Patrick Hermann, Thorgan Hazard, Raffael and Max Kruse. Traore’s role would often be as a super sub; however he still provided special moments when donning the Borussia Monchengladbach shirt.
As the 2014/2015 Bundesliga season was winding down to a close, six minutes after coming on as a substitute against Bayer Leverkusen he cut in from the right flank and hit a venomous hit with his left foot that left the keeper flailing. It was obviously a great goal but it obviously wasn’t lucky as he had finished from almost the exact same position in a similar manner in Monchengladbach’s previous match against Hertha berlin. Notably he also did the same in the opening month of the season against St Pauli.
If you haven’t guessed already by the key moments previously described, Traore is peculiarly a predictable yet exciting player all at the same time. A la Arjen Robben, it’s almost certain he’s coming inside onto his left foot when he’s playing on the right-hand side, but you can’t help but feel that something might just happen. He’s probably the type of player Twitter’s statistics aficionados hate as he can be quite inefficient with his shooting. Attempts often end up high in the stands but football wouldn’t very compelling if there were 10 Thomas Muller clones on every team.
Although he’s an exciting player, Traore has never scored more than two league goals in a season for Monchengladbach. He’s probably a victim of having to play in quite boring, counter-attacking sides. Before last season Lucien Favre’s side often resembled an old-school Roy Hodgson side and at international level Michel Dussuyer would rightly set Guinea up to sit deep and break, as they would struggle to take the game to opponents.
Unless he engineers a transfer to a lesser side to have more of a key role, which would be perverse, Traore’s best moments will probably mostly at international level, but his work in 2015 is certainly enough to grant him a place in the SFG top 20.
Highlight of the Year: The memorable goals
His goals from distance against Hertha Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen and St Pauli that were basically carbon copies of each other.